So, you got yourself a fancy, new smart watch. You can’t wait to track your steps and compete with your friends to see who can walk (or run) the most every day. But you quickly realize that one of the coolest aspects of your new wearable is its ability to track your sleep. Like many of us, you probably wonder exactly how many hours you actually sleep per night. You feel like you wake up groggy every morning and now you’ll finally know how many hours of the night you’re actually in a deep, refreshing sleep, how many times you toss and turn, and how many hours you spend silently staring into the dark, bleak void of your own terrifying existence. It’s the height of technology, so it must be accurate, right?
Before you hop into bed with said watch securely fastened to your wrist, you should probably read this: A recent study determined that sleep tracking devices aren’t really very accurate, but people seem to think they are even when faced with proof. This is according to a new research in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. So what should you do? Stop stressing yourself out about something that won’t even clearly explain your sleep habits. “It’s great that so many people want to improve their sleep. However, the claims of these devices really outweigh validation of what they have shown to be doing,” Kelly Glazer Baron PhD, MPH, the study’s lead author told Rush University.
If you plan to only use the sleep tracker for fun and to get a vague sense of your sleep habits, that’s totally fine. The study says that people go astray when then they decide to use their Fitbit, Apple Watch, or other smart device to treat a self-diagnosed sleep problem. And if you’re trying to treat (or study) your insomnia with a sleep tracker, you should know that your watch’s findings aren’t really going to help you figure out how to get to sleep. Your best bet is to actually go to a sleep study and let the professionals figure it out.
The study also found that sleep tracker users became obsessed with getting the perfect amount of sleep in order to not feel any fatigue the next day. The researchers found that subjects became so fixated on the inaccurate data from their sleep trackers that they were more likely to sleep less. One subject even said that she felt groggy after her watch told her that she didn’t sleep well even though she spent the evening connected to computers that were telling her the opposite. For some reason, she trusted the watch over the scientists. “They think the devices are able to do more than they really can,” says Baron.
Should you avoid buying a smart watch? Nah, they’re fun, after all! But remember to take any results with a grain of salt, otherwise, you could end up losing out on more than one night of rest.